Two Brothers, Nicaraguan Coffee

These packages of Nicaraguan coffee seem simple to understand, but the reality is decades of work behind it all.

Nicaraguan Coffee

Nicaragua, Baseball, Byron

It all started in 1985, when I first visited Nicaragua. There is a decade between my first visit to that country in 1985 and the day I met these men. I had come to Nicaragua to play baseball with a team from San Francisco. We were a team of left-leaning political progressives who were opposed to President Reagan’s war against the Sandanista Peoples Revolution and we wanted to show solidarity with the Nicaraguan People. The tour was called Baseball for Peace, and we spent ten days playing baseball against community teams all over the country. We won one and lost eight, but we had a great time and made many friends.

My reputation as a lover of the game of baseball followed me throughout my travels in coffee country over the next decade. Oftentimes games were organized when a community knew I was coming to taste and purchase coffees from their cooperatives. I was the Ballplayer Coffee Buyer and they were ready to cater to my enjoyment to enhance my coffee buying experience.

In 1996 I happened upon the community of Aranjuez, a high-altitude locality north of Managua. I was told there was a bio-dynamic Nicaraguan coffee farmer I had to meet. His name was Byron Coralles.

We met on his farm. He was an amazing person. When you’re in the presence of amazing, you know it – and I knew my life was going to be different after I spent some time with him. I knew that the inner workings of his coffee farming community was about to become a part of the life I brought back to Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Little did I know how much benefit would come to the world as he and I became comrades and collaborators over the next two decades. (a story for another blog entry)

Pictured Below: Byron Corrales at his coffee farm in Nicaragua

Byron Corrales, Nicaraguan Coffee Farmer

But I will skip to the Brothers.

Carlos and Fausto Gonzales

Byron was president of the Solidaridad Coffee Cooperative at the time. It had 20 coffee farmers and they produced 75,000 pounds of coffee yearly. He took me to meet them and to get samples of their coffees to take back. I could not sample the coffee in their community because there was no way to roast, grind and brew there. Both equipment and electricity were lacking. It was also the case that the farmers combined all their production into lots big enough to export – as no one farmer produced enough to fill an entire shipping container themselves. My “samples” were going to be a mix of the production work of all 20 farmers. That was standard for coffee buying in the mid nineties, as well as for the previous 200 years of coffee.

Carlos and Fausto were both Board members of the Cooperative and they had heard of my interest in playing ball and both brothers were avid ball players on the Cooperatives baseball team. So for the next two decades I always brought my baseball glove with me when I knew i was going to visit Aranjuez and the Cooperative.

Pictured Below: Carlos in the Nicaragua coffee cooperative

Nicaragua Coffee

Variety in Nicaraguan Coffee

Over the years I came to see that each of the 20 co-op members’ farms were different in so many ways: altitude, crop varieties, weather, soil conditions, cultivation methods and more. But most importantly was how they processed the cherries into green coffee on the farm’s benificio.

It inspired my curiosity.

How these were coffees different from each other became an obsession that led to a decade-long project. (that is a story for another blog also)

By 2002, I had 20 different farm coffees from the same region in Nicaragua, all produced by the members of one cooperative separated by farm. I called them the Campacino Estate coffees, and Carlos and Fausto Gonzales were part of that separation. It was about pride in workmanship and each coffee farmer was proud of their work.

They could actually taste their own coffees.

The Brothers Coffees – and more

Last year I began to feature The Brothers Coffees. It is my intention in the future to feature all the different coffees from those Nicaraguan farms. I’ve already done this with Byron’s coffee (both washed and natural process) for the past decade.

I believe that each and every coffee farmer deserves to know they are being recognized for their hard work. The taste of their coffee is influenced by their knowledge that their coffee is no longer anonymous. I want to make them famous (in a small way) and I want you to know these guys better. (yet another blog to come)

It took twenty years to create these selections.

But you would never know it from just looking at the package.

 – Paul Katzeff, co-founder and CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Paul Katzeff in Nicaragua

Picture Above: Paul Katzeff at the Aranjuez Nicaraguan coffee cooperative

Shop The Brothers Coffeehttps://store.thanksgivingcoffee.com/the-brothers-gonzales-p342.aspx

Limited Release: The Brothers Gonzales

The Brothers Gonzales - coffeeCarlos and his brother Fausto are both Members of the Solidaridad Cooperative in Aranjuez, Nicaragua. We have worked with them for over 20 years, and are proud to bring you their coffee in this special two-bag offering (only 100 available).

The Natural coffee Carlos has produced is richly fruity with an unforgettable finish. The washed process coffee Fausto has produced is delightful, with layers of honey and apricot that are followed by a soft, pleasant sparkle.

Enjoy these two coffees separately, but be sure to experiment with blends. We found that a ratio of 60% washed and 40% natural produced a cup that is somehow better then the sum of its already delicious parts.

The Brothers Gonzales - order now

Carlos Lanzas Gonzales

Carlos GonzalesCarlos was born in Arenal, and his father built houses – he was a carpenter and wasn’t really involved in agriculture. “Like all children I played a lot, soccer, baseball. I studied up to 3rd grade then began to work. With my brothers we rented some land in Aranjuez and began to grow vegetables. Our main conditions were good soil, and accessibility to the city. We rented for a while then got land as a part of the agrarian reform- 120 manzanas (208 acres) between 12 of us, for about 10 manzanas (17.4 acres) per person. We formed a cooperative, at that time it was the only way to get loans or inputs.”

 

“I love to work in the countryside. I talk to the plants, ask them how they are. When the coffee trees have flowers they are happy, when the coffee is ripening they are gleeful, and when the coffee is ready to be harvested it’s in an even better mood.”

On changes in the community: “Now we have good roads, a school, a health post, electricity, we’ve been able to improve our homes, these changes are due to coffee. With vegetables you can’t get much income. Over 70 manzanas (121 acres) of land has been reforested, we’ve been conserving the soil. We’ve put trees on the land that is not planted in coffee, in order to protect the watershed. Most of the water that goes to the rest of Aranjues and to Matagalpa comes from our lands.”

“There’s always a risk that the seeds will be bad, the inputs too expensive, or that the sale price won’t cover the costs. We win and lose, it’s the rhythm of our lives. But we’ve been able to improve our lives with the buyer that we’ve found. The small producer usually doesn’t have access to the market- we’er always in the hands of the intermediaries and they get most of our earnings.”

On the meaning of well-being: “All the best things you desire. When the work we do is compensated, we can educate our children, have good food, live a just life. With a good price we have a better life, we have the right to that, don’t we? My favorite time of year is when I sell my coffee, in April or May.

On the meaning of coffee: “It’s our source of life. The most marvelous thing about her is that she gives progress to our family. She helped us to get what we have. Agriculture in general is not very profitable. 12 years ago we got help from Norway through UNAG, they helped us to get started in coffee. It was a good program because it helped us a lot, gave us the techniques. We didn’t know anything about coffee at the time. When the prices went up to $1.70 because of the frosts in Brazil, we thought of nothing but coffee. I have 25 manzanas (43.5 acres) of land in another place for growing beans and corn, and 2 manzanas (3.5 acres) in transition to organic. I have Caturra and Catimor that I’m planning to change for maracaturra.”

On the meaning of the cooperative: “The only way to have strength is through being united. The co-op gives us lots of advantages, helps us get credit, if we did;t have its it would be difficult to sell our coffee. Our successes have been building the cupping laboratory, getting credit, selling our coffee for a good price.”

Carlos’ hope for the future: “Maintain a good relationship with Paul, sell more coffee, give more work to nearby families. Have a coffee take us as far as it can. Continue to protect the environment around us. Unite and ask for more help, for housing, schools, a better life for poor people.”

“We put a lot of effort into sending the best coffee that we produce so that we can get a fair price. The harvest takes a lot of sacrifices and effort. Maybe someday the drinkers of our coffee will come and meet us to learn where coffee comes from.”

— — — — — —

Fausto Lanzas Gonzales

Fausto GonzalesFamily: 5 children; Karla Patricia 24 (teacher at El Quetzal, a hacienda down the road), Frank 23 (producer and member of the cooperative), Fabio 22 (producer, not a member of the cooperative), Wilmer 20 (7th grade), Sadia 17 (11th grade).

Fausto was born in Matagalpa and raised in El Arenal. 30 years ago he came to Aranjuez  because the area was known for having good soil and they had to move because of all the agricultural burning where they used to live. There were very few small farmers here at the time. In 1990 he started to grow coffee.

“When I got here, there were no schools, people were poorer, life was more difficult. Now my five children have studied, they are professionals. Before, people grew vegetables on naked land, now with the coffee we have reforested and there are lots of birds. We don’t slash and burn and chemicals are used much less intensively. Agricultural chemicals used to be very risky and dangerous. The whole region has improved; the culture, the education.”

On the meaning of coffee: “It’s what I live in, the way I survive, my work. We were growing vegetables, they weren’t worth anything for a while. When the project from Norway came and gave us credit for coffee, we were looking for a different product. I like harvest time, knowing that I’m working for the good of the whole family, so we can get ahead…”

Fausto’s “I have 10.5 manzanas (18.2 acres) of land in total, 5 manzanas (8.7 acres) are planted in coffee, 2.5 (4.3 acres) of them are organic, and 4 manzanas (7 acres) are natural forest. The coffee varieties I have are Caturra, Maracaturra, and a little bit of Catimor.”

Meaning of quality: “If I have quality, I’ll get a good price and I will not have trouble selling my coffee.”

“Thinking that you have to live here and do this, that it’s an obligation. Thinking that if you don’t do it you won’t have any way to make a living. Also, the possibility of losing a harvest because of a natural disaster; the “El Nino” phenomenon, drought, or hurricane, A couple years ago I lost 30% of my coffee in a drought and I lost my wet mill during hurricane Mitch.”

On the meaning of the cooperative: “It’s very important, one of the necessities here in the in the countryside. We help each other, when we have problems we work it out between all of us. It helps us get credit, sales, we’ve learned a lot through the co-op. We’ve had good sales, made good friends, and received financing.”

On the future of the community: “The cooperative needs to support the community leaders to get the basic necessities here. We should petition the government. The cooperative should help with the school and health post when we have the resources, but we’re still small and just starting out.”

Fausto’s hopes for the future: “I want to improve my life and that of my children, help my kids build homes. By caring for the land, she will give us more.”

Fausto’s message to coffee buyers: “We try to produce the best quality for you, we’d like to be recognized for this work. We struggle a lot to achieve this quality and we’d like to be paid for it.”

The Brothers Gonzales - order now

Natural (Dry) Processed Coffee

In a world getting short on water, coffee lovers should begin to get their palates ready to recognize “Dry Processed” or “Naturals” when they buy coffee.

Coffee Cherries on Raised Bed

Naturals are processed from cherry to green bean without the customary water de-pulping and subsequent water bath. In the dry process, coffee cherries are dried with their skins and pulp intact.

The cherries are placed in the sun on concrete patios or raised drying beds. The skins tighten as they dry and the pulp juices move inward into the two seed in the cherry’s interior. When the mass is totally dry and crisp, and hard as a rock, they are milled like rice, cleaned and sorted and sacked.

Coffee Cherries Drying

This process produces quite a different flavor profile from wet processed “washed coffee.” The coffees take on the hints of the fruit and at their best, notes of blueberry and strawberry prevail. There is a jammy sensitivity to the brew, lots of body and fruit aromas.

Of course, these great flavors disappear in the darker roasts. We roast naturals, both light and medium, depending on the initial intensity of the fruit flavors.

Special Offer - Ethiopia Natural  Special Offer - Byron's Natural

This month we are featuring two “naturals.” One is from Ethiopia and received a 91 rating from Coffee Review. The other is from one of our favorite coffee farmers in Nicaragua, Byron Corrales, and received a 94 rating.

Byron began experimenting with naturals about 6 years ago. He was the first to master the art in Nicaragua and his naturals are a tad more balanced and a bit less fruity than the Ethiopians, but the jam is there as are the sweet berry flavors.

One of my favorite blending concepts is to blend naturals with washed coffees. In fact, Paul’s Blend is just that.

– Paul Katzeff
Roastmaster Emeritus
Thanksgiving Coffee

 

In Memory of Fernando Amador

In memoriam: Fernando Arguello Amador (1945 — 2015)

Fernando Arguello Amador

Fernando was a campesino (farmer) who became a friend over the many years we worked together. He was ever present in supporting his cooperative and community. He maintained an extremely high quality standard for his coffee.

Most of all, we will remember him as a strong diplomatic leader who stood up for the interests of the farmers he represented. Fernando had a huge heart, penetrating smile, and soft voice. He was incredibly respectful while driving a hard bargain. When he stopped being president he continued to support and use his experience to help the cooperative. He will be sadly missed on our trips up into the Aranjuez mountains, but his memory will always be with us.

– Nicholas Hoskyns
Thanksgiving Coffee Board Member & ETICO Managing Director


 

We’ve set aside a small amount of Fernando’s last coffee crop (2015) for a limited release. Our roastmaster, Jacob Long has created a special roast of this coffee, and we’re offering 100 bags. We’ll donate $1.00 per package sold to the Amador family in memory of Fernando.

Limited Release: Fernando Amador

 

LIMITED RELEASE: Fernando Amador

LIGHT ROAST
Silky-smooth, notes of milk chocolate, with a lingering navel orange sweetness.

$16.00

Buy Now

 


 

About Fernando Amador:

Fernando Arguello Amador

Fernando Arguello Amador was born in La Libertad, Nicaragua in the region of Chontales in 1945. His father was a silicon miner, and became ill with Tuberculosis. His family learned of a TB hospital in Aranjuez, so the family moved there for his treatment. When his father died 2 years later, Fernando, being the oldest child, stayed in Aranjuez to help his mother.

Fernando – “I sold bread and food door to door. I spent 5 years working in the hospital, first cleaning, then I learned carpentry to repair shoes. Later a woman offered me credit to buy 10 manzanas of land (17.4 acres). Little by little we started with coffee, then with the help of God we got a cow.”

 

Fernando had a rough start to farming, losing much of his first farm because he couldn’t make the payments.

But he persisted, and eventually secured a loan to plant coffee trees on more land. In 1992, Fernando and other farmers formed a cooperative, SOLIDARIDAD, which eventually became Fair Trade Certified, guaranteeing higher prices per pound of coffee grown by its members. It was around this time when Paul Katzeff, Thanksgiving Coffee’s co-founder, met Fernando and began buying his coffee.

Fernando's Coffee Seedlings“Coffee means everything. “[It] is what gives us security. It pays for all of our big expenses- the house, any sicknesses, clothing. I’ve raised my kids with it, given them education, constructed this house. With the help of the Thanksgiving Coffee Company, I bought the truck and that changed our lives,” said Fernando.

The better price has helped each member of every producing family. It allows us to help out in the community, with the school, and the church,” said Fernando.

In his years of experience as a cooperative member, Fernando gained wisdom about working in the cooperative model.

Casa Amador
“It’s a good way for a group of friends to get together to help the community. But for it to function well, you have to put aside your ego.

Don’t mix the personal with the professional, so that it is a cooperative in the true sense of the word. Virtue means that position and power don’t change you,” he said.

 

Over the years, Fernando saw his community, and the environment change drastically.

With development, come more challenges. There are more people than ever living in Aranjuez, which mean more roads, more traffic, and large-scale agriculture by foreign companies and investors.

“The down side is that a lot of the environment has been destroyed. There has been tremendous deforestation here. On the other hand, the small-scale producers have planted some 100,000 trees. We all have desire for the area to stay as beautiful as it is.”

Amparo AmadorFernando and his wife, Amparo, raised five children together. He liked to say, proudly, that all of his children have graduated high school, and are pursuing their passions.

“Leonelia (33) is a nurse, Alan (30) is a photographer, Iris (30) is a member of a women’s collective, Fernando (26) is a coffee producer (26) and Ontoniel (22) is studying engineering at the university in Leon, Nicaragua,” said Fernando.

 

Thanksgiving Coffee has partnered with Fernando and Cooperativa Solidaridad for over 20 years, and built a strong, collaborative relationship.

Over the years we’ve worked together to increase the quality of the coffee by investing in washing stations, building cupping labs, and providing feedback to the farmers on their crops each year. It’s a relationship we’re proud of.

Fernando in Coffee Trees

“The best coffee, it takes a lot of work, carefulness, and dedication. The coffee has to be picked at the right moment, de-pulped the same day with clean machinery, perfectly fermented, and rinsed with clean water.”

– Fernando Arguello Amador (1945 – 2015)

For Fernando, coffee meant everything.

 

Latest Arrival Notes: Byron’s Maracaturra Natural

2ByronCorrales-new

Byron Corrales is a visionary farmer, campesino leader, and pioneer in the application of biodynamic farming practices to coffee production. Twice he’s won top honors for this magical coffee: Maracaturra, a special variety found only on his small family farm in Nicaragua.

coffeereview_byronsnatural

Last year, Byron began processing a small amount of this special coffee using the natural process: sun-drying the coffee cherries to develop a rich, fruity flavor notes. This coffee received a rating of 94 points from CoffeeReview.com!

The coffee is a unique hybrid of the heirloom varietals Maragoype and Caturra (Bourbon). It was developed and is grown exclusively by Byron Corrales for Thanksgiving Coffee Company. It is a truly exceptional coffee that’s more akin to its cousins in the highlands of East Africa than its neighbors in Central America.

Byron's Maracaturra Natural

 Byron’s Maracaturra Natural

unnamed

Lush, mellow and jammy,
with a suggestion of blueberry.

Shop Byron’s Maracaturra Natural

 

 

Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015 – Day 2

Adventures at Origin: Nicaragua

Nic_2015_trip-mapJacob Long, Nicholas Hoskyns, and I (Jonah Katzeff) traveled together from March 23rd-27th. We visited first and second level coffee cooperatives that produce approximately 25% of our annual green coffee purchases. We cupped and selected our Nicaraguan coffees for 2015, met with cooperative leaders and farmers, and visited beautiful coffee farms.

We were received warmly everywhere. I am so grateful to the hundreds of hands that touch coffee, from the time it is picked to when it is exported. Our 2015 Nicaraguan coffees will be exceptional. The new harvest is now available now!

Read the first post in this series here- Day One: Solcafe and Byron Corrales’ farm visit


 

DAY TWO

Solidaridad Cooperative, Tour of Sol Café, and dinner with Pedro and Byron Corrales

Day 2 Yellow Coffee at Solidaridad Farm

Began day at the Solidaridad purchasing station and office, located in Aranjuez, which is a small community north of Matagalpa. We had coffee and introduced ourselves in their new meeting room.

The new wing was built this year for meeting space and offices using funds from the Fair Trade premium they received last year.

Day 2 Solidaridad Byron Corrales

Additionally, the cupping lab is going to be moved to the purchasing station. An old building where the lab is now located will be sold.

Day 2 Nicaraguan Horse

We toured two farms.

Day 2 Solidaridad Cooperative Farm

Day Two Jacob Long at Solidaridad Farm

Day 2 Chicken on Solidaridad Farm

Returned to purchasing station for lunch – Gallina Rellena y Sopa de Gaillina con albondigas (typical meal served on Christmas, New Year’s, and occasional special events).

We had a 2 hour meeting negotiating a three-year contract that would provide security for both the Solidaridad Cooperative and Thanksgiving Coffee.

Day 2 Solidaridad Group

Return to Solcafe for a tour of the new coffee roaster and dryers used to dry coffee mechanically.

Day 2 Sol Cafe Roaster

Dinner with Pedro Haslan, Byron Corrales, Nick, and Jacob; discussion of raised beds for drying natural coffees. Pedro calls it Cafe Ancestral or Ancestral Coffee.

Turns into a bigger discussion on how to promote natural Nicaraguan coffee with a national event that would bring roasters and co-ops together. Pedro proposes working with the co-ops that were involved with the cupping labs.

Day 2 Sol Cafe Group

More to come from this origin trip in our post about Day 3!


The green coffee sourcing team:

Green_Team

Nicholas (on right) is the Managing Director of Etico. He organized our visit and traveled with us throughout the week. Nicholas was born in England, but Nicaragua is his adopted home after spending almost 25 years there! Etico imports our coffees from Nicaragua as well as green coffees from Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Jacob (second from right) is the Director of Coffee Control and Roastmaster at Thanksgiving Coffee. He is responsible for developing the roast profiles of all our single origins, blends, and decafs. He approves all the green coffees we purchase and ensures that the coffee roasted at Thanksgiving is consistent roast after roast.

Jonah (on left) works in Business Development and as an Account Manger. He serves in a variety of roles that include green coffee sourcing, managing the San Francisco Bay Area accounts, and special projects, as assigned by Senior Management.

Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015 – day 1

This coffee buying trip to Nicaragua marks the 30th year Thanksgiving Coffee has traveled to this beautiful country. It is also the first year that Thanksgiving Coffee is sending staff without the guidance and counseling of CEO Co-Founder Paul Katzeff.

The trip represents the “passing of the torch” to a new generation. It’s a generation that grew up with coffee as a medium for carrying the message of the people, their craftsmanship, and their hope for a better life through coffee cultivation.

Jacob and Jonah carried The Company message to the cooperatives that our mission, and the value we place on long term relationships, bridges generations. We are in this together, and prosperity for all is the common thread we value most.
– Paul Katzeff

Adventures at Origin: Nicaragua

Nic_2015_trip-mapJacob Long, Nicholas Hoskyns, and I (Jonah Katzeff) traveled together from March 23rd-27th. We visited first and second level coffee cooperatives that produce approximately 25% of our annual green coffee purchases. We cupped and selected our Nicaraguan coffees for 2015, met with cooperative leaders and farmers, and visited beautiful coffee farms.

We were received warmly everywhere. I am so grateful to the hundreds of hands that touch coffee, from the time it is picked to when it is exported. Our 2015 Nicaraguan coffees will be exceptional. The new harvest will be available starting in late May.

DAY ONE

Solcafe and Byron Corrales’ farm visit

Cupping-at-SolcafeCenocafen-cuppers

• We cupped the Solidaridad washed and dry-processed (natural) micro lots, along with Byron’s washed and dry-processed coffees in the morning at Solcafe- the dry mill that processes and exports coffees from first level cooperatives.

• Cecocafen is the second level cooperative that owns the dry mill and is the exporter for many first level cooperatives.

• They have constructed a new cupping lab that is much more spacious than the older one. It was interesting to see on this visit that three cupping labs had been moved to new locations.

Next-gen-with-tree

• We then traveled to Byron’s farm for a delicious lunch consisting of beets, carrots, squash, potatoes, cheese, tortillas, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and mini chicken tamales.

• After lunch, Jacob and I toured Byron’s two farms with Byron and his daughter, Sara.

• Byron showed us the tree where Paul, Byron, and Arnulfo (Byron’s grandfather) first agreed to work together 22 years ago (in the photo at left).

• We learned about some of the biodynamic techniques Byron is applying to the land.  Byron expressed that the 3 most important factors resulting in great coffee are: the producer/farmer, the quality of the soil, and the skill of the roaster.

• We also learned about some of the negative effects resulting from climate change on his coffee trees – fruit not ripening at all, or not ripening fully, and trees flowering now [end of March] when they typically flower in May.

Byron-with-goat

• Byron is taking action now by replacing older trees with ones that are more resistant to climate change. He is also planting more shade trees to protect the coffee trees from the sun.

• He expressed concern that if changes are not made now, there may be a lot less coffee in the future.

• We visited a small grove of a variety of pine trees (7 total) that Byron smuggled back from Brazil. There are no other varieties of this pine in Nicaragua.

• We then returned to Byron’s farm called Finca de Los Pinos and said our goodbyes to Byron’s parents, and returned to Matagalpa for the evening.

• We enjoyed pizza with the Corrales family in Matagalpa!

This story will continue in our next post, so check back soon!


The green coffee sourcing team:

Green_Team

Nicholas (on right) is the Managing Director of Etico. He organized our visit and traveled with us throughout the week. Nicholas was born in England, but Nicaragua is his adopted home after spending almost 25 years there! Etico imports our coffees from Nicaragua as well as green coffees from Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Jacob (second from right) is the Director of Coffee Control and Roastmaster at Thanksgiving Coffee. He is responsible for developing the roast profiles of all our single origins, blends, and decafs. He approves all the green coffees we purchase and ensures that the coffee roasted at Thanksgiving is consistent roast after roast.

Jonah (on left) works in Business Development and as an Account Manger. He serves in a variety of roles that include green coffee sourcing, managing the San Francisco Bay Area accounts, and special projects, as assigned by Senior Management.

A new way to connect with your coffee farmer!

By Mischa Hedges, Director of Communications

At Thanksgiving Coffee Company, we’re always talking about how to connect our coffee community. We strive to create a space for dialogue between coffee drinkers and coffee farmers – space that allows for gratitude, appreciation and knowledge about coffee to be shared. With social media and increased global connectivity, it’s becoming much easier than it used to be to do that. For instance, check out this new feature on our website:

Connecting coffee drinkers with coffee farmers

Farmer FeedbackIf you’ve enjoyed one of our single origin coffees recently, you can visit our “Farmers” page and write a message to the coffee farmer or cooperative who grew it. 

Traveling to your coffee’s country of origin and meeting your coffee farmer in person is the richest way to connect, but that’s not an option for most people. We’re hoping this new feature on our website will enable you to deepen your relationship with your coffee.

Some of the farmers and cooperatives we partner with are Facebook users, and can respond directly to your messages! In other cases, we’ll gather and send your messages to the farmers and cooperatives we work with so they can see your appreciation.

Let us know what you think of this new feature…

Save Alexa’s Farm – Support Project La Roya

Save-Alexas-farm-header

In February of 2013, Thanksgiving Coffee staff visited the farm of Alexa Marín Colindres, a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative in Nicaragua. We toured her farm, listened to her heartbreaking story, and wondered how we could help. Later that day, we did a blind cupping of 20 of the cooperative’s coffees, and asked that her coffee be included.

We sipped and slurped for two hours to get through them all, scoring each coffee on Fragrance, Aroma, Body, Acidity, Flavor Notes and Balance. One coffee was, hands down, the best on the table – and it turned out to be Alexa’s. We bought 10 sacks (all that was available), and are proud to offer you this special coffee, and invite you to help.

Alexa and her sonsMeet Alexa. She lives with her two teenage sons in the mountains of Northern Nicaragua, where they focus on growing the best coffee possible. She has been a coffee farmer for many years and has worked with the cooperative PRODECOOP since 1992.

In 2013, Alexa noticed that the leaves on her coffee trees were affected by La Roya, a fungal disease which attacks the leaves and prevents them from converting sunlight into energy. The coffee cherries turn brown and fall off before ripening, and the tree eventually dies.

Roya affecting coffee trees in NicaraguaLa Roya is thought by many in the coffee industry to be one of the many challenges brought on by Climate Change. This disease is sweeping across coffee country, devastating the coffee trees of many small, family farmers – and threatening their way of life.

For some, this will mean starting over – even on a new piece of unaffected land. For others, it may mean removing or pruning affected trees and replanting where necessary.

Visit Easy Fundraising Ideas

Want to Help? Support Project: La Roya

Alexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive – so we decided to rally our customers to support her and other farmers battling La Roya. In March 2014, we launched Project: La Roya with our partners at The Social Business Network (SBN) in Nicaragua.

The project will raise $10,000 to help the farmers of PRODECOOP stop the spread of this disease and re-plant 5,000 coffee trees that have been affected. $2 from every bag of Finca de Alexa coffee sold will be invested in Project: La Roya.

Buy Alexa's Coffee

Make A Donation

Recognizing the Unpaid Work of Women in Ethical Supply Chains

A group poses at the 7/3/13 Event

Our partners at Ético: The Ethical Trading Company, along with the British NGO Social Business Network are pioneering the first ever initiative to Recognize the Unpaid Work of Women in Ethical Supply Chains.

Traditionally, the price for commodity products (like coffee) include only direct input and labor costs, and fail to recognize or take into account the supporting unpaid work, which is done mainly by women.  This is the first time that rural women’s unpaid work has been recognized as a necessary input into production – one that should be valued and remunerated.

The initiative developed in 2008 during a visit of the Body Shop with the Juan Francisco Paz Silva Cooperative in Achuapa, Nicaragua.  Ético gender advisor Catherine Hoskyns conducted a pilot study of women’s labor in sesame production.  Her initial findings revealed that when women’s indirect labor (eg. cooking food for field laborers) and more general domestic work are included, this counts for around 22% of the total labor input in sesame.

The results of the study were used to apply an additional cost to the price of the sesame oil for cosmetics, and has since been used to apply similar costs to the sales of coffee from Nicaraguan Cooperatives.  The Cooperatives use the increase in price margin to organize women’s empowerment activities in their communities, such as education, savings and loans schemes and labor organization, which bring women together and strengthen the cooperatives.

Nick Hoskyns, Founding Director of Ético, states, “when you bring together committed partners, you can use business to effect real change….with such good collaborators, we have shown that we can still make trade fairer, just as we did with the establishment of Fair Trade.”  Hoskyns credits cooperative organizations with being instrumental in the implementation of this initiative and using the additional funds so effectively for women’s empowerment.

At Thanksgiving Coffee, we’re proud to partner with Ético to implement projects at origin.

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